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3 entries from September 2015

Viva México!

On the 16th September Mexico celebrated it's 203rd Independence Day!

On the 15th September Mexico begins one of the most important dates in their calendar with the 'Grito' (shout) of Independence day. The 'grito' is where the President (and Mayors of each town around Mexico) shouts 'Viva' and the whole crowd shouts 'viva' back to him, and then he shouts 'viva México' and the whole crowd shouts viva México back etc! This is done in memory of the night when Hidalgo cried out to the native Mexicans and lower classes to rise up and take back the lands stolen from their forefathers. This was after 300 years of brutal Spanish rule where the poorer Mexicans were oppressed and exploited. (It's interesting that the Israelites too were slaves for 400 years before God rescued them from Egypt).

(Picture of the main city square where the palace is situated. Here the President delivers the 'Grito' on the night of the 15th September)

There are mixed emotions in Mexico on this historic day. For Mexico is still in turmoil and many are still being oppressed or exploited. Not least the street children. Although they too join in with the frivolities, they cannot say they are truly free. Most of them are still very much in bondage to the drugs, prostitution and exploitation they experience each day on the streets. I was recalling a story I heard of a girl who had been rescued by a street boy. She had been kept chained in a basement for several years and repeatedly raped. The street boy had stumbled across her and had somehow managed to free her. They escaped to another town and it was there they encountered God, they got married, and are now running a small house church together. We are in the process of starting up a branch here in Mexico of another OMS ministry called 'Hope 61' which aims to educate and raise awareness amongst churches of the reality of human trafficking and the sex trade here in Mexico. Slavery is still very much alive - not just here but all over the world, and it often goes unnoticed and unhindered, sadly even by the church. 

There is also much oppression that still goes on even at government level, and the 43 students that were killed last year (in complicity with the Mayor of the town), and more recently the killing of journalist Rubén Espinosa (the 14th journalist to be killed in Veracruz) and of human rights activist Nadia Vera and 3 other women show that there is still much injustice and corruption in this country.

We pray for true freedom for people here - for freedom from all the chains that bind them. For freedom in Christ, for He is truly the one who can set people free from the physical, emotional and spiritual oppression that we see everyday here.

So in a spirit of remembrance, but also of prayer for the people to recognise their ongoing need for freedom, we joined with Nisha and Anya's school to shout with them 'Viva México'. Below are some pictures of Nisha and Anya with their teachers. Anya is dressed in the typical costume of Veracruz (the town mentioned above), and both of them did a special dance for the occasion which they thoroughly enjoyed and gave us plenty of previews of! Of course Charlie had to dress up a bit as well for the occasion!

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Back to school!

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As Helen prepares to share next week how we celebrated Mexican independence day I thought I'd take the opportunity to update you all on my post-graduate studies. I can't believe a decade has passed since I sat down to begin my degree at Moorlands College. I had a wonderful three years there and learnt so much about God, ministry and myself. Since graduating I always said I would like to study some more and although I have done bits a pieces in-between, I have been praying for a few years about which course to enrol in. 

Asbury Theological Seminary outside of Lexington, Kentucky has a long and strong working relationship with OMS, it also has a very good reputation in the Christian academic world as being a leading seminary, with some of the world's most influential scholars teaching there. I was extremely blessed and encouraged that after the second time of applying I have been provisionally accepted on to the Doctor of Ministry degree, which I'll begin in the summer of 2016 with a full scholarship. The Dmin programme has different cohorts that begin twice a year with different specialisations, I have still not made the final decision on my specialisation but by next summer will have that clearly defined. I will travel to the USA a couple of times a year to complete some residential requirements, but the rest of the course will be online study, researching and writing, finishing of course with a thesis. 

So why provisional and why now?

Provisional because ATS have asked that I gain some more experience studying at Masters level this year and complete some more credit hours before beginning my doctorate. Therefore I leave for the USA on Wednesday and although I have some other things to do while I'm there (like meetings at the OMS world headquarters, a visit to a church and an opportunity to see my brother Nick), I will spend the majority of my time beginning to take some courses on the Masters of Intercultural studies degree, which I will engage with this year. That gives ATS and Helen & I an opportunity to really test whether or not being a student again is the right thing for now. 

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So why now? Well as God continues to enlarge and grow the areas I am responsible for I feel getting more teaching and equipping is essential for going forward. I have been teaching more at our seminary in Mexico, which I still have overall leadership responsibility for. Teaching theology to adults is an area of ministry I am really enjoying and if I'm going to grow in this area of seeing others get equipped for ministry, post-graduate study is essential. 

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So please join me in praying, especially for Helen and the kids as I hit the road for a couple of weeks. I look forward to sharing more as I go along in my studies, please pray for a clear mind, and discipline to not allow studying to take over my time. Please also join me in praying for financial provision this year. Although I have a full scholarship for my doctorate, I only have a part scholarship this year.

The church in Mexico is really beginning to grow and it's so important we equip new leaders and pastors to care for and teach sound biblical theology and doctrine to this new growing and developing church. I count it a privilege to have the opportunity to be equipped for this vital task.